10 Most Northern Human Settlements on Earth

The Northern Hemisphere is known for having more land than the Southern Hemisphere. However, much of that land is undeveloped and the areas that are developed into large cities and towns are clustered in lower latitudes in places like the United States and central Europe. Large cities like Helsinki and Reykjavík are rare in the far north. There are however, some small towns and cities that are located very far north in the harsh climates of the Arctic Circle above 66.5°N latitude. The following is a list of the world’s 5 northernmost settlements with a permanent population of over 500. The list is arranged in order of latitude and population numbers have been included for reference.

1. Longyearbyen, Norway

• Latitude: 78°13’N
• Population: 2,075 (2007 estimate)

Longyearbyen is the largest settlement and the administrative center of Svalbard, Norway. As of 2007, the town had a population of 2,075. Longyearbyen is located in the valley of Adventdalen, at the end of Adventfjorden, a bay of Isfjorden located on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Since 2002, Longyearbyen Community Council has had many of the same responsibilities of a municipality, including utilities, education, cultural facilities, fire department, roads and ports. It governs an area of 242.86 km2 (93.77 sq mi). The town is also the seat of the Governor of Svalbard and is the world’s northernmost settlement.

2. Qaanaaq, Greenland

• Latitude: 77°29’N
• Population: 626 (2010 estimate)

Qaanaaq is located in the northwest of the country in the Baffin Bay on the Hayes Peninsula at Inglefield Fjord , about 200 kilometers southwest of the geomagnetic North Pole . Near the village, about 90 miles as the crow flies to the south, is the Thule Air Base . This was 1952 at the site of the original settlement Uummannaq built, which was forcibly relocated in 1953 completely. Most of the residents chose to Qaanaaq as his new home. From the air base from where the place within an hour using a helicopter to be achieved. The tallest construction in Greenland, the 378-meter Globecom Tower, is located near the town. The town of Qaanaaq was first established during the 1950s when the US airbase, which was originally built during the Cold War at Thule/Dundas, needed to be extended. At that time it was not considered appropriate for a civilian population to be living close to the base, so everybody was moved some 100 kilometres further north, where the new town of Qaanaaq was built in 1953.

3. Upernavik, Greenland

• Latitude: 72°47’N
• Population: 1,129 (2010 estimate)

Upernavik (“Springtime Place” in Greenlandic)  is a small town in the Qaasuitsup municipality in northwestern Greenland, located on a smallisland of the same name. With 1,129 inhabitants as of 2010, it is the thirteenth-largest town in Greenland. Owing to the small size of the settlement, everything is within walking distance. It contains the Upernavik Museum. In 1824, the Kingittorsuaq Runestone was found outside Upernavik; which was founded in 1772. It bears runic characters left by Vikings, probably from the late 13th century. The runic characters list the names of three Vikings, and mention the construction of a rock cairn nearby. This is the furthest north that any Viking artifacts have been found, other than those small artifacts that could have been carried north by Inuit traders, and marks the northern known limit of Viking exploration.

4. Khatanga, Russia

• Latitude: 71°58’N
• Population: 3,450 (2002 estimate)

Khatanga (Russian: Хатанга) is a rural locality located on the Khatanga River, on the Taymyr Peninsula, in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, south of the Arctic Ocean. It is one of the northernmost inhabited localities in Russia. Its elevation is 98 ft (30 m) above sea level. Population: 3,450 (2002 Census). The name Khatanga means “large water” in the local Evenki language. The settlement is known to have existed since the 17th century. It is served by Khatanga Airport.

Khatanga is sometimes visited by Western sightseers touring the surrounding natural wilderness in Siberia. Amenities in Khatanga include an airport, a hotel, a natural history museum, and weather reporting stations.

5. Tiksi, Russia

• Latitude: 71°39’N
• Population: 5,873 (2002 estimate)

Tiksi (Russian: Тикси) is an urban locality (a settlement) and the administrative center of Bulunsky District of the Sakha Republic, Russia, situated on the Arctic Ocean coast. Population: 5,055 (2010 Census preliminary results); 5,873 (2002 Census);  11,649 (1989 Census). It is one of the principal ports for accessing the Laptev Sea. It is served by the Tiksi Airport and saw other military construction projects during the Cold War at Tiksi North and Tiksi West airfields.

In August 1901, Russian Arctic ship Zarya headed across the Laptev Sea, searching for the legendarySannikov Land (Zemlya Sannikova) but was soon blocked by floating pack ice in the New Siberian Islands. During 1902 the attempts to reach Sannikov Land continued while Zarya was trapped in fast ice. Leaving the ship, Russian Arctic explorer Baron Eduard Toll and three companions vanished forever in November 1902 while travelling away from Bennett Island towards the south on loose ice floes. Zarya was finally moored close to Brusneva Island in the Bay of Tiksi (Bukhta Tiksi), never to leave the place again. The remaining members of the expedition returned to Saint Petersburg, while Captain Matisen went toYakutsk. The name Tiksi means “a moorage place” in Sakha language. Tiksi’s winters are very cold, with temperatures remaining well below zero from November through February. The summers have mild days, but cool nights. Tiksi has a very dry climate which can be classified as a desert climate. The majority of Tiksi’s precipitation falls during the summer months.

6. Belushya Guba, Russia

• Latitude: 71°33’N
• Population: 2,716 (2002 estimate)

Belushya Guba (Russian: Белу́шья Губа́,  lit. “beluga whale bay”, or just Belushye) is an urban locality (a work settlement) and the administrative center of Novaya Zemlya District of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia, located in the southwestern portion of the Southern Island of the Novaya Zemlya arcticarchipelago. Population: 1,972 (2010 Census preliminary results);  2,622 (2002 Census); It is the main permanent settlement and the administrative center of the island territory of Novaya Zemlya. It lies around 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) southwest of the Rogachevo airbase. A large proportion of its population is made up of military personnel associated with the nuclear test sites located on the island. The whole Novaya Zemlya archipelago, including Belushya Guba, is an area of restricted access (formally, as part of border security zone), and a special permit is needed to visit the archipelago.

7.  Barrow, Alaska – United States

• Latitude: 71°18’N
• Population: 4,581 (2008 estimate)

Barrow is the largest city of the North Slope Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is one of the northernmost cities in the world and is the northernmost city in the United States of America, with nearby Point Barrowbeing the nation’s northernmost point. Barrow’s population was 4,212 at the 2010 census. The city was named after Sir John Barrow.

The city derived its name from Point Barrow, which was named by Frederick William Beechey in 1825 after Sir John Barrow of the British Admiralty. The location has been home to Native Inupiat Eskimo people for over 1,000 years under the name Ukpeagvik or “place where snowy owls are hunted”. 

8. Honningsvåg, Norway

Note: The status of Honningsvåg as a city is in question because in as of 1997 a Norwegian city must have 5,000 residents to be a city. Honningsvåg was declared a city in 1996.
• Latitude: 70°58’N
• Population: 2,367 (2009 estimate)

Honningsvåg in Nordkapp municipality, claims to be the northernmost city in Norway and even in the world, although the title is disputed by Hammerfest, Norway; Barrow, Alaska; and Longyearbyen, Svalbard. It is situated at a bay on the southern side of Magerøya island, while the famous North Cape and its visitors center is on the northern side. It is a port of call for cruise ships, especially in the summer months. Honningsvåg Airport, Valan is located 4 km outside the town, with flights to mainly Tromsø.

9. Uummannaq, Greenland

• Latitude: 70°58’N
• Population: 1,299 (2010 estimate)

Uummannaq (old spelling: Ũmánaq) is a town in the Qaasuitsup municipality, in northwestern Greenland. With 1,299 inhabitants as of 2010, it is the eleventh-largest town in Greenland, and is home to the country’s most northerly ferry terminal. Founded in 1763,  the town is a hunting and fishing base, with a canning factory and a marble quarry.

Uummannaq is located 590 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, on Uummannaq Island located in the south-central arm of the Uummannaq Fjord. Uummannaq is also the general name given to the series of inlets north of the promontory at Niaqornat on the Nuussuaq Peninsula. he island is also home to Uummannaq Mountain, rising very sharply to the height of 1170m. Climbing it requires technical skills.

 10. Hammerfest, Norway

• Latitude: 70°39’N
• Population: 9,261 (2005 estimate)

Hammerfest  is a city and municipality in Finnmark county, Norway. The municipality encompasses parts of three islands:Kvaløya, Sørøya, and Seiland. Hammerfest was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The law required that all cities should be separated from their rural districts, but because of low population, and very few voters, this was impossible to carry out for Hammerfest in 1838. (See also Vadsø and Vardø.) The rural district of Hammerfest (Sørøysund) was separated from the city on 1 January 1852, but it was merged back into the city on 1 January 1992 (but without the area of Kvalsund, which was separated from Sørøysund as a municipality of its own in 1869).

The town is named after an old anchorage. The first element is hammer, referring to a number of large rocks, good for mooring boats, calledHamran (Old Norse: Hamarr – steep mountainside). The Hamran were covered up in land reclaiming during the early post-war years. The last element is fest, from Old Norse festr which means ‘fastening’ (for boats).

sources: WikipediaGeographyAboutParadiseInTheWorld

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30 responses

  1. Love this post!

    March 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

  2. Great post…really want to get up to Svalbard soon, I’ve heard great things about that place. You should write a follow-up about the world’s most southern settlements…I visited one of them…Villa las Estrellas in Antarctica, the largest city on that continent (with a population of around 120.)

    March 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    • Thanks for information! I will definitely post another one with southern settlements, in this one I was following the method with a permanent population of over 500. Thanks 4 comment!

      March 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm

  3. Love the post…!!! Very educative…!!!

    March 13, 2012 at 10:37 pm

  4. I love your posts.. You always come with something different.

    March 14, 2012 at 4:36 am

  5. What an absolutely gorgeous series. Much of my family is Norwegian and my husband is from Siberia — your beautiful photo essay made me ‘see’ this kindred/connection.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    • :D Thanks for comment, Im glad you like it!

      March 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm

  6. Very interesting!

    March 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm

  7. Z

    I finally got around to my Kreative Blogger award, thanks again.


    March 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

  8. scintillatebrightly

    Great pics and informative post.

    March 22, 2012 at 1:58 am

  9. loved the list.. thanks for sharing…

    May 7, 2012 at 12:48 pm

  10. Tammi Reynolds Citron

    I love these shots. I am an artist and wonder if you allow your images to be used or if you supply digital files. Thanks!

    May 18, 2012 at 11:50 am

  11. Hey Tammi, thanks 4 comment! These are not my shots, all photograph are from wikipedia or SharingMediaCenter.

    May 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm

  12. Tammi Reynolds Citron

    Thanks for posting. I am still searching for a high res file to purchase of the whalebone arch pic from Barrow, Alaska. I couldn’t find it on Wiki and wonder if you may know how or where to track one down. Thanks!

    June 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  13. Try this link, I think some of them are free but you could also buy the one you like: http://www.alaskastock.com/resultsframe.asp?txtkeys1=whale%20bone

    June 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    • Tammi Reynolds Citron

      Thanks so much! I am determined to make this endeavor work, and the link is very helpful. All the best to you.


      June 4, 2012 at 6:50 pm

  14. Great post

    December 9, 2012 at 10:47 am

  15. Linda Liebenberg

    most beautiful photo’s I’ve seen in a long time. We in South africa wouldn’t cope to live there. Those people are brave.

    January 21, 2013 at 6:17 am

  16. Fascinating!

    March 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm

  17. Sometime, we all are faced with a lot of squabbles and so of these squabbles brings us to critical thinking..
    I can’t saying i wouldn’t have live there if i inherit from, those there have no choice than to stay… Lets try to appreciate what we have,

    August 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm

  18. Benoît Panzini

    I would like to obtain a permission use your Longyearbyen blue night picture as the final image in an academic scientific presentation (no commercial interests involved). Could you send me a high resolution picture and information on how to adequately cite the source? Many thanks,
    B Panzini MD

    October 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    • The photo You are interested in I found on internet and I believe the image belongs to Cap Scandinavia Travel Agency, situated in Uppsala, Sweden. You may contact them via mail info@capscandinavia.com
      I am sure they have the original image and they could help You in Your academic presentation.
      Thanks so much for checking out Utopia Highlights blog.

      October 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

  19. I really liked this post. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve done a pingback to your blog.

    December 28, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    • Im glad You like it, thanks for adding a link to my blog

      December 29, 2013 at 7:39 am

      • No problem, very interesting blog by the way.

        December 29, 2013 at 7:40 am

  20. Pingback: Russia’s Top 10 most interesting Cities | Life in Russia

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